Booksmart

booksmartSTARS4Every era has its classic coming of age tale.  Rebel Without a Cause, Blackboard Jungle, The 400 Blows, American Graffiti, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, Dazed and Confused, Clueless, Superbad, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  There are so many others.  Generation Z is maturing into adolescence.  They are currently getting the movies that define their age.  We will have to wait to see what will stand the test of time.  Last year’s Eighth Grade is a good candidate.  It was my favorite film of 2018.  I’m thinking Booksmart has a good chance of making the grade.

Booksmart centers on class president Molly, a driven, scholarly-minded teenager played by Beanie Feldstein.  She wears a blazer paired with a turtleneck to school.  Her best friend is Amy (Kaitlyn Dever).  They’re both academic overachievers who have stayed out of trouble for their entire scholastic career so that they could get into the finest colleges.  Molly is heading to Yale.  Amy to Columbia.  Then one fateful day, Molly’s world comes crashing down around her when she comes to a distressing realization.  Her lackadaisical peers have been accepted to Ivy League schools as well.  Even the blissfully unaware stoner (Eduardo Franco) has been recruited to code for Google.  Molly’s discipline, good behavior, and focus were apparently for nothing she reasons.  Enraged at having missed out on high school fun, these former “goody-two-shoes” make a vow to condense 4 years of social life into one full uninterrupted night of partying.  In this way, they can “make up” for 4 years of good behavior.  Incidentally, this revelation is gleaned from a conversation overheard in the school’s unisex bathroom.  This is so a movie of our times.

I usually don’t compare pictures in a review.  However, this “one crazy night” in the life of two misfits on the cusp of graduation was the same foundation behind Superbad.  Both also share a casting director, Allison Jones.  Star Beanie Feldstein is the sister of Jonah Hill who starred in that production.  These R-rated shenanigans measure up favorably to that classic.  They’d make a perfect double feature.  So comparisons are quite apt. Booksmart is actress Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut.  She’s known for playing Quorra in Tron: Legacy, and “Thirteen” on the medical-drama TV series House (2007–2012).  She’s also engaged (since 2013) to former SNL member Jason Sudakis.  Sudeikis plays a goofy principal with no moral authority.  He moonlights as a rideshare driver.  Which brings me to my next point.

Booksmart is another movie that treats adults like clueless idiots and teens as the hip people who all want to aspire to be.  Amy’s mom (Lisa Kudrow) and dad (Will Forte) have crafted a celebratory dinner of entrees with themes for her graduation.  Their indulgence is presented as quaint.  One of their teachers (Jessica Williams), who seems sensible at first, shows a complete lack of discretion at a party with a student.   I must admit, as I get older this “naive adult” gets more and more annoying.  However, I’m pretty cognizant of my hypocrisy.  I can appreciate the skewed perspective of the American adolescent because (shocker) I too was one once.  My teens years played out during the mid-1980s era of John Hughes films where that character was an archetype, so I can relate.  Booksmart captures the zeitgeist of that perspective in a way that is highly entertaining.

There’s a vibrant energy to Booksmart that infuses every scene.  Like so many films of this ilk, it’s highlighted by a charismatic ensemble of up and comers.  I suspect some will have success in the future.  Time will tell.  Molly and Amy are witty goofballs.  Their central friendship is sweet and uplifting.  Molly is the more confident of the two.  There’s an intensity to her character that is particularly amusing.  She has a crush on über-popular class vice-president, Nick (Mason Gooding).  Amy pines for a skater girl named Ryan (Victoria Ruesga).  Like their schoolmates, they all seem to live in the rarefied air of a posh suburb in Los Angeles.  They own cars and live in houses (not apartments).  Some exude ostentatious wealth.  We still have the cool kids, jocks, nerds, mean girls, drama geeks, etc.  What’s changed is the egalitarianism of this high school.  I didn’t see one bully.  They may not all be best friends, but no one is persecuted for being different.  Ah, movies!

What ultimately sends Booksmart into the stratosphere is the engaging chemistry of the supporting cast who populate the school.  These classmates include Noah Galvin as George who plays a flamboyant, and that’s putting it mildly, theater geek hosting a murder mystery soiree.  There’s also Skyler Gisondo as Jared, a dorky rich kid who remains conspicuously uncool.  He tries to buy the friendship of his peers by throwing the 1st of three parties the girls crash.  It’s on a yacht with a gambling casino and tuxedoed waiters serving hors d’oeuvres.  The complimentary gift bags include an iPad.  He’s invited everyone, but no one shows up.  That’s a lot for the audience to swallow.  I don’t care if you’re my mortal enemy.  I’m most definitely checking “will attend” on THAT invitation.  Lastly, there’s Jared’s friend Gigi played by Billie Lourd. She is Carrie Fisher’s real-life daughter.  Lourd’s ability to keep popping up at every party is hilarious.  She’s absolutely a scene stealer.  One might argue that the “message” for these girls to indulge every instinct does get questionable by the end and projectile vomiting is never OK.  Overall it’s raunchy but not mean-spirited.  The egalitarian nature of this fantasy is warm and appealing.  The charisma of this cast is palpable and there are many laughs along the way.

05-24-19

2 Responses to “Booksmart”

  1. Billie Lourde is my fav. This movie was creative and funny. Loved it. 4 stars

    Like

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